“We’re best friends,” said two giggling boys studying in class III at a North Corporation boys’ school in Wazirabad village.
Around three months ago, one of the boys, a Hindu, had been shifted to a different section of class III, meant only for Hindu boys; while the previous section was turned into an all-Muslim one. This meant both losing out on a best friend.
The sections of the school had been re-organised along religious lines at the end of July by a teacher who had been put in-charge of the school, after the principal was transferred on July 2. Following a report by The Indian Express on October 9, the teacher in-charge was suspended, and on October 12, the segregation in the school on the basis of religion was dissolved.
The two boys are now back in the same section again. “It wasn’t hard for us to adjust after our sections were changed again. These are all our old friends who had been with us before we were separated,” one of the boys said.
Students say that the two months of distance did not damage their friendships. “I have four best friends since class III, and we had been in the same section since then itself. But when the five of us were put in two different sections, we were very sad. We used to sit together in class and eat together during lunch. We couldn’t even eat together when we were separated because we had to stand in lines to get our lunch and eat in our own classrooms. But we still used to play kabaddi and baraf-paani together. Now we are together again, so we can study together too,” said a student of class V-C who had been shifted to V-B during the reorganisation.
Among his best friends, two are Hindus and two are Muslims, and he along with two of the friends had been shifted out of section C when it had been reorganised into a Muslim-only section. On October 17, a new principal was appointed to the school. According to teachers, the sections have been restored to what they were before the segregation. “Everything went back to normal soon. The entire issue was the doing of one individual who is now facing the consequences of his actions,” said a teacher.
“They are small children, they do not know religion. Even when the sections had been changed, they did not think of it as segregation, they just knew that they were sitting in new sections,” said another teacher.
Director of Education Sanjay Goel, who has submitted a report to Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia, said: “In terms of action, the individual has been suspended and a disciplinary enquiry has been initiated. It could not be stopped earlier since there was no formal complaint filed by teachers, students or parents. Such close scrutiny, like looking at the names of each student in sections, is not part of the supervision drill even at the zonal level.”